It’s the time of year when we either take out the shovels or take out the road salt.
De-icing your steps and driveway using traditional road salt comes at a steep environmental and financial price. Environmentally it increases the salinity (salt content) of soils, damages plants, contaminates ground and surface water, and leads to the death of aquatic life. Financially, because salt is corrosive, it damages fabric, metal (cars, trucks, bicycles) and our roads. This can total more than $5 billion a year.
What is the issue exactly? When road salt dissolves in water, it forms sodium and chloride ions; it is the chloride ions that are most problematic for roadside plants, for aquatic ecosystems and particularly amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Chloride ions are quite persistent in water, so the chloride concentration in streams can remain high long after its initial introduction.Recent results from a study by the Ottawa Riverkeeper revealed that chloride levels in Pinecrest, Graham and Moore creeks exceeded the Canadian Council of Minister for the Environment (CCME) chronic toxicity threshold in all samples assessed, and exceeded the acute (short-term) toxicity threshold on several occasions. From January through March (as a direct result of the application of road salt), all three creeks contained chloride concentrations at a level that was unsafe for many aquatic organisms. As well, other studies have shown that increasing the saltiness (salinity) of natural water ways can make it easier for invasive and toxic species to thrive and spread.Canadians use up to seven million tonnes of salt each year to help clear icy roads. Salt corrosion is pricey and dangerous for cars as it can damage brakes and increases vehicle depreciation, with an estimated cost of $800 a year (updated for inflation). Although corrosion-resistant coatings have improved, they are hardly “green.”Salt also corrodes the rebar in many concrete structures such as bridges and buildings, leading to their accelerated destruction. It is estimated that total damage done by road salt on infrastructure is as high as $687 per tonne of salt – a high price to pay when alternatives exist.Two alternatives that are easier on your wallet, your pets and the environment were tested last year by Ottawa residents as part of the “Halt the Salt Challenge” organized by the Ottawa South Eco Action Network. Residents found that traction aids Ecotraction (a volcanic mineral) and Eco Ice Grip (wood chips impregnated with magnesium chloride) were both helpful in preventing slips and falls, with the added bonus that they are made in Canada.
This year, before reaching for the salt, consider what you want to achieve. Do you need to completely melt the ice and snow on your driveway? Or do you just need to make sure there is a safe path to walk for you, your neighbours and your kids (four-legged or two)? If you want to minimize your financial and environmental impact answer these three questions:
• Am I choosing the right product? (Road salt will melt ice, while traction aids such as Eco Ice grip will prevent you from slipping.)
• Am I using the right amount? (2 tbsp of road salt will melt one square metre of space.)• Am I applying it at the right time? (Road salt only melts ice above -15 C;) if it’s colder than that, or going to get colder, you are throwing your money away. During early winter and spring, check the weather: if it’s going to warm up significantly over the next day, you may not need to use anything)
If you find, like other residents, that the alternatives are effective, consider approaching your condo board, apartment landlord and even the city, to reassess what type of product they use, or how much and when they use it. We have all seen the piles of road salt that can be left behind, wasting our tax dollars, damaging our roads and our cars. We can do better – and there is much benefit to be had.
Thank you to • Food for Thought Ottawa • Foodsharing Ottawa • Uplands Community Council • Riverside Park Community Association – RPCA for working with us and supporting this event. • Special thanks to Crestway Construction + Design for volunteering a trailer for transportation.
Together we can make food waste and food insecurity less spooky.
Farms include: • Arc Acres • Stanley’s Ole Maple Farm, • Madahoki Farm Kiwan Farms
Food Centres include: • Orléans-Cumberland CRC Dalhousie Food Cupboard • Heron Emergency Food Centre • Debra Dynes Family House • CRC Rideau-Rockcliffe CRC
A cruise ship with 1000 people is travelling across the North Atlantic.
They are told that they are on course for a collision with an iceberg.
Their decision-making is democratic; the captain’s input is taken into consideration but they do not rely solely on the captain’s advice. All 1000 have the franchise. Here are the results of their discussions.
Interpretations of the evidence
Some deny the iceberg exists.
Some deny there is any risk from the iceberg.
Some think the iceberg will melt before the ship reaches the iceberg.
Some accept the risk but are sure fate will determine the outcome.
Some think perhaps the ship and iceberg are not really on a collision course
What to do?
Some want to go right.
Some want to go left.
Some want to stay the course.
Some want to back up.
Some want to stop and wait.
Some want to fire a torpedo to move the iceberg out of the way.
Some want to send a boat to the iceberg and light a fire to melt it.
Some want to send a delegation to the iceberg to negotiate a compromise.
It takes time to research the situation, go to the iceberg and take measurements.
It takes time to educate all 1000 voters.
It takes time and effort to convince the passengers of the risk.
Have you ever thought how nice it would be to reduce your carbon footprint by investing in an electric vehicle? And how as a bonus, you would no longer spew soot, carbon monoxide, sulphur, nitrates, and other pollutants into the air?
I have been tootling around town in a Nissan Leaf since 2018 when I bought the vehicle in advance of the 2018 Ontario provincial election, anticipating that the new government would reduce or eliminate the generous EV rebate. Luckily, I was able to purchase the vehicle and take advantage of the rebate before it was eliminated. However, at the time, the available EV’s in my price range were limited. I settled on the Nissan Leaf as a vehicle with an excellent track record and a range of about 240 kilometers. This was just enough to get to my cottage and back to the city.
Before our long trip this winter, I had never used a Level 3 DC fast charger, as I had read that it was better for the battery to use a level 2 (240V) or trickle (120V) charger. In fact, the only public charger I had used was a L2 ChargePoint charger at a library in the west end of Ottawa.
In preparation for the trip, I drove to Prescott to use the L3 Circuit Électrique charger at the Tim Horton’s, right off the 401. This charger is only 93 km from my home. I made it easily and charged successfully, which buoyed my confidence. There is also an IVY L3 charger right off the 416 at Route 43 in Kemptville that I used successfully a couple weeks later.
So, off we went to visit the rellies. Dog, adult son, gifts, suitcases, etc. – a fully loaded car, with winter tires and winter weather. We had to turn on the defroster every few minutes and use the headlights and windshield washers so I could see to drive. All of this puts extra load on the battery.
I had carefully located EV chargers along our route planning to top up every 100 km or so. This turned out to be about right for the car and the conditions. Note that this is less than half of the rated range. We were lucky. Only one charger was not working and none of the chargers were occupied when we pulled up. At one L3 charger I called for assistance from the network because the RFID card didn’t work and they were able to start the charge remotely. At the one L3 that was not working, I was redirected to a L2 charger. We charged there for about 2 hours while we had a delicious dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. Unfortunately, we did not wait long enough to ensure adequate percent charge and crawled, on the very last bit of juice in the battery, with the car screaming at me to Stop and Charge the Battery!!!, to the L2 charger where we were staying that night. To state the obvious, I never want to do that again! and what a relief that the hotel charger was unoccupied and functional! Thank you Marriott!
Coming home, we used more L3 chargers and fewer L2 chargers and that made the return trip a good deal faster but we still needed to plug in about 10 times to go 850 km. A trip that would usually take 8 hours, took us 13 hours. Although it might have been better to spend that five hours with family, we had an enjoyable time exploring the towns along the way, went for a short hike at one place, enjoyed a pizza lunch at another and took advantage of the local restroom facilities while the car charged. Total cost for charging was $101.
There was one other worry at the back of my mind and that was the fact that fast charging causes the battery to heat up. There is a battery temperature gauge which I checked several times over the course of the day. After 3 or 4 fast charges, it registered about half way to the red end. After another couple fast charges it was up to about 75% to the red end. So it, in fact, was heating up even though the outdoor temperature was only about 3 degrees C. After leaving it overnight, the battery temperature had dropped to its normal temperature close to the blue end and the battery capacity gauge still read full.
Now, did I really need to plug in that many times? No. But in case a charger was not working, I wanted to have enough juice after getting to the charger to drive to another charger. Pulling in to most charging locations, we still had over 40% charge. The maximum distance we drove between chargers was 120 km after an overnight charge that gave us 100% SOC by morning. We still had 35% charge when we pulled in to the next charger.
With proper planning, we had a great trip with little inconvenience except for extra time spent at L2 chargers.
Some advice for taking an EV on long trips:
1. If you plan to take long trips, in our experience, there are about 4 times as many CCS as CHAdeMO L3 chargers. Maybe car manufacturers are switching to CCS electrical connectors, but check the electrical connectors to be sure you will not have difficulty finding chargers. All EV’s use the J1772 connector for L2 charging and, aside from Tesla which has its own connector, they all have the CCS, CHAdeMO or CCS-J1772 combo L3 connector.
2. Get a vehicle with adequate range. Understand that the stated range is the BEST range, not the range under difficult driving conditions like cold winter weather and darkness. Assuming that the range will drop by half under the worst conditions should give you adequate leeway.
3. Remember that when you use a fast charger, you should only charge to around 80% to preserve battery capacity. So right off the top, you lose 20% of battery range. And you don’t want to let the battery run right down like I did. That is really not good for the battery. You should charge it before it gets to 10% and you should leave a bit extra to find another charger. That leaves about 60-65% of the total range for driving.
4. Test how far you can go on a 60-80% charge under the same conditions that you expect to experience on your trip before you head out and plan your trip from charger to charger accordingly. PlugShare.com and ChargeHub.com are excellent for finding EV charging stations in North America.
5. There are multiple EV charging networks, each with their own app and RFID (Radio Frequency ID) card. Each network requires you to register for an account. Then you can get an RFID card, usually for a small fee, which is then sent to you in the mail. Some require you to put money on the card and/or app. On our trip, ChargePoint seemed to be everywhere. EVgo was largely in northeastern US, Flo in Quebec and Ontario, IVY in Ontario, Circuit Électrique in Quebec and Ontario, EV Connect is in an area that includes most of New York state but not eastern NY. Electrify America was sporadic, and there is an Electrify Canada that I have not encountered yet. Greenlots (a.k.a. Shell Recharge Solutions) has an agreement with EvolveNY (New York Power Authority), so you can use the Greenlots app at EvolveNY stations but you can also use a credit card. Each station is specific to one network. My advice is to get all the cards and apps for all the stations you expect to use because many do not take credit cards. To use the apps, you must have cellular access on your phone. But the advantage is that you can see on the app how long it has been charging, how fast it is charging (i.e., the kw going in), and the state of charge which is handy if you go into a restaurant. It will also notify you when the battery gets to 80% SOC.
6. Check PlugShare.com for EV chargers on your route and read the Check-ins to see if there were recent successful charges by other vehicle drivers. If no one left a check-in for several months, there may be a problem with that charger. If you have a successful (or unsuccessful) charge, let others know by submitting a check-in. You will need to get the PlugShare app to do this. If you encounter a problem, the charging network should be alerted by your check-in and send someone to fix the problem. Alas, sometimes this doesn’t happen for weeks.
7. Many L2 chargers are free and have amenities nearby for eating and enjoying the local sights. If you have the time, it is a great way to see the country and meet the locals.
Do you have reason to have range anxiety on long trips? Yes and No. Until there are L3 chargers every 50 km or so along the highways, it’s never going to be completely worry free. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. The more EV’s there are, the more likely the folks in charge of building EV charging networks will be to install EV chargers. The more EV chargers there are, the more likely people will be to buy EV’s. With the number of EV’s on the road increasing, the number of chargers is also increasing. So plan your trip well and you should have few problems finding a charger. That said, if your car has limited range like mine, then know that there is only 1 L2 charger near the highway between Watertown and Syracuse. Actually there are 2 but I noticed that no one had made any comments at the other one so I chose the one with lots of positive comments.
But if you have a level 2 charger or even just a regular 120V outlet in your driveway or where you park your car if you live in a multi-unit building, the likelihood that you will run out of charge in Ottawa is minimal. I try to use public transit and walk and cycle as much as possible which means I don’t use my car while in the city very much. I charge the Leaf every 2-3 weeks. One charge might give me several trips across the city and back before I need to charge again.
Do you have experience with long trips in an EV you would like to share? Please leave a comment or get in touch by email at email@example.com
Step 1: Tell your municipal councillor, MPP and MP what concerns you about climate change. Elected officials must know they have your support for urgent action on climate change. Consider this – your city councillor makes decisions for the 1 million people of Ottawa. Your own actions add up but decisions made by elected officials are orders of magnitude more significant. Click on the template below for ideas.
Step 2: Learn as much as you can about climate change. Knowledge will prepare you for the changes ahead and allow you to help others become informed. Ottawa.ca has flood awareness tips. The Guardian has an excellent global climate news section. Locally, Carleton University-based Efficiency Canada runs weekly DiscoverEE episodes on a wide range of climate actions on their website and on YouTube. Go to A Matter of Degrees for some cool stories about people taking action.
Step 3: Join a local environmental organization. Such organizations can connect you with people in your community working to make our city more sustainable. Being part of a group can achieve more and have more influence than one individual.
Step 4: Prepare your home for unexpected weather. Prepare for power outages, flooding, drought, fires, tornados, and freezing rain. The Ottawa.ca website archived information on Safeguarding your home.
Step 5: Mitigate climate change by reducing your combustion of fossil fuels. Transportation (air, road, train, ship) and space heating are the two big sources of green house gases in Ottawa. This means 1. reducing the use of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by using alternative forms of transportation or battery electric vehicles, and 2. replacing fossil fuel burning appliances (furnace, hot water heaters and gas ranges) with electric alternatives. Also, you can source your electricity from alternative energy providers, like BullFrog Power, which feeds equivalent electricity into the grid from wind, solar, and run of the river hydro for every kWh you use.
Step 6: Have your home assessed for energy efficiency. An energy audit shows, for example, where heat is lost, where additional insulation could be added, which windows and doors need replacing. You can also borrow an infrared camera from the Ottawa Public Library to see the areas of your home that are hot and cold.
You can also do your own assessment by keeping track of the amount of natural gas, gasoline, oil, etc. you purchase using utility bills and fuel receipts.
Step 7: Make the switch from gas powered lawn and yard equipment and recreational vehicles to electric. This includes: lawnmowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, boats, all terrain vehicles, snow mobiles. Leaf blowers and other 2-stroke engines are notoriously heavy GHG emitters.
Step 8: Make your home more energy efficient. Once you have the results of your energy audit, you can focus on those areas that will make the most impact on household energy consumption. Making the home more air tight and insulating attics, walls, and basements are often needed. Homeowners often upgrade to Energy Star Most Efficient windows and doors at the same time. These actions may require a fair amount of money depending on the level of energy retrofit. Ottawa now has a Better Homes Loan Program to help you financially.
Step 9: Offset your electrical costs with solar electricity generation. As you add more electrical appliances like electric vehicle chargers, electric water heaters, heat pumps and electric ranges, your electrical usage will increase. Solar systems are not cheap. The payback period can be 6-20 years depending on a number of factors. Your solar installer should provide you with this information.
Step 10: Reduce your general consumption and “buy local.” All the things we buy are transported, using fossil fuels and much of it is made from plastic, sourced from petroleum. Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, redesign, recover, rethink, repair, rot and more!
Don’t forget to talk to your friends and neighbours about the climate actions you are taking. You never know what will inspire people to take action! – saving money, reducing fossil fuel consumption, or just that you are making the future better for their children. You can show others what is possible and help put them on their road to climate action.
Thanks to All of You who took the time to drop off your pumpkins! We collected well over 1000 pumpkins this year. So many happy pigs! Given the great support for this event, we are looking forward to our fourth year of Pumpkins for Pigs next fall! [Any extra pumpkins, please put them in your green bin or compost.]
CBC and CTV kindly highlighted Pumpkins for Pigs this year. Check out their video and audio clips here:
This year, intact pumpkins were also delivered to Food for Thought Cafeto help combat food insecurity. Pumpkins were transformed into a nutritious fall-inspired meal for their clients. You can link to their website here: https://www.foodforthought.cafe
Call, or contact your city councillor, MPP or MP and share your concerns.
Donate your time or your money to an environmental advocacy group like Ecology Ottawa, Ottawa Riverkeepers, Environmental Defense, Nature Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund. Local groups are many and diverse and they are looking for your support and ideas.
Call your favourite stores, ask to speak with their sustainability management and tell them you are concerned about the carbon footprint of its products. Share ideas you have with them. Ask them about their sustainability plans.
Buy better products and reuse, recycle, resell them after. Take your old clothes and fabrics to Value Village or hold a clothing exchange.
Shop at stores that are committed to reducing waste, improving product lifetime and repair, or that participate in recycling or Take it Back! programs.
This is an update on the previous heat pump blog from last year. If you remember, I had a heat pump installed in December 2019 and I was worried that the heat pump was using a lot of electricity. It turns out that, yes, I did use more electricity but not as much as I thought. So, 3 key take aways:
I saved (a tiny bit of) money year over year with the heat pump!
Less carbon was emitted. YEAH!
I should have put the heat pump in a sunny sheltered location instead of in the shade.
I saved money in 2020 compared with 2019 with the heat pump but not very much ($46.44). Compared with 2018, I spent $92.22 more in 2020 with the heat pump. But more importantly, I consumed over 500 m3 less natural gas in 2020 with the heat pump than in either 2018 or 2019.
2018 electricity 4782 kwh used, 1802 m3 NG consumed
2019 electricity 5380 kwh used, 1837 m3 NG consumed
2020 electricity 6442 kwh used, 1284 m3 NG consumed
Most HVAC installers will advise you to put your heat pump in a shaded location because they are accustomed to installing air conditioners which take warm air and make it colder. To create cool air in summer from hot air is less efficient than starting with not quite so hot air. Seems to me, the same should hold true when taking cold air and making it warmer in winter.
As I am using the heat pump primarily for heating, I want it to function as efficiently as possible in winter to reduce the electricity load. Most heat pumps have an efficiency curve that you can (and should) ask the manufacturer for. It will show you the Temperature vs COP (Coefficient of performance) and kWh used. In other words, it shows how efficiently your heat pump will work over a temperature range. Unsurprisingly, it works more efficiently at the warmer temperatures because it doesn’t take as much energy to heat air when it is, say, 5 ºC compared with -5 ºC. My heat pump, for instance, at temperatures above 10 ºC, is rarely on.
I realized (too late!) that the temperature on the breezy shaded side of my house in winter is often 5 to 10 degrees colder than the south facing sheltered side of my house. That’s on a cloudy day. On a sunny day, the difference can be as much as 20 degrees or more. My heat pump is set to be off at an outdoor temperature below 0 ºC and the auxiliary heat comes on as needed. If the outdoor temperature were 5-10 degrees warmer, then the heat pump would be heating the house more of the time than currently which would save more money and use even less natural gas.
It would be nice if someone (maybe NRCan?) would test this “sunny location” hypothesis and publish their results. My heat pump seems to blow out an enormous amount of cold air when it is on. Perhaps the amount of warm air in the sunny location would be displaced by the cold air blown out and the resulting effect on efficiency would be negligible.
Nevertheless, my plan is to eventually get a cold temperature mini-split inverter type heat pump and put it in the cozy sheltered location.
If anyone has actual (as opposed to theoretical) experience with placing heat pumps in sunny locations, please let us know about it in the comments.